Florida Senate - 2012                        (NP)    CS for SB 4
       By the Committee on Rules; and Senator Benacquisto
       595-00976-12                                             20124c1
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of Eric Brody by the Broward
    3         County Sheriff’s Office; providing for an
    4         appropriation to compensate Eric Brody for injuries
    5         sustained as a result of the negligence of the Broward
    6         County Sheriff’s Office; providing a limitation on the
    7         payment of fees and costs related to the claim against
    8         the Broward County Sheriff’s Office; providing
    9         legislative intent regarding lien interests held by
   10         the state; requiring that the guardianship pay a
   11         portion of such liens before distributing funds to the
   12         claimant; providing an effective date.
   14         WHEREAS, on the evening of March 3, 1998, 18-year-old Eric
   15  Brody, a college-bound high school senior, was returning home
   16  from his part-time job at the Sawgrass Mills Sports Authority.
   17  Eric was driving his 1982 AMC Concord eastbound on Oakland Park
   18  Boulevard in Sunrise, Florida, and
   19         WHEREAS, that same evening, Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy
   20  Christopher Thieman, who had been visiting his girlfriend and
   21  was running late for duty, was driving his Broward County
   22  Sheriff’s Office cruiser westbound on Oakland Park Boulevard. At
   23  the time he left his girlfriend’s house, Deputy Thieman had less
   24  than 15 minutes to travel 11 miles to make roll call on time,
   25  which was mandatory pursuant to sheriff’s office policy and
   26  procedure, and
   27         WHEREAS, at approximately 10:36 p.m., Eric Brody began to
   28  make a left-hand turn into his neighborhood at the intersection
   29  of N.W. 117th Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard. Deputy Thieman,
   30  who was driving in excess of the 45-mile-per-hour posted speed
   31  limit and traveling in the opposite direction, was not within
   32  the intersection and was more than 430 feet away from Eric
   33  Brody’s car when Eric Brody began the turn. Eric Brody’s car
   34  cleared two of the three westbound lanes on Oakland Park
   35  Boulevard, and
   36         WHEREAS, Deputy Thieman, who was traveling in the inside
   37  westbound lane closest to the median, suddenly and inexplicably
   38  steered his vehicle to the right, across the center lane and
   39  into the outside lane, where the front end of his car struck the
   40  passenger side of Eric’s car with great force, just behind the
   41  right front wheel and near the passenger door, and
   42         WHEREAS, Deputy Thieman testified at trial that although he
   43  knew that the posted speed limit was 45 miles per hour, he
   44  refused to provide an estimate as to how fast he was traveling
   45  before the crash, and
   46         WHEREAS, in the course of the investigation, the Broward
   47  County Sheriff’s Office lost key evidence from the crashed
   48  vehicles and did not report any witnesses even though the first
   49  responders to the crash scene were police officers from the City
   50  of Sunrise, and
   51         WHEREAS, the Broward County detective who led the crash
   52  investigation entered inaccurate data into a computerized
   53  accident reconstruction program which skewed the speed that
   54  Deputy Thieman was driving, but, nevertheless, determined that
   55  he was still traveling well over the speed limit, and
   56         WHEREAS, accident reconstruction experts called by both
   57  parties testified that Deputy Thieman was driving at least 60 to
   58  more than 70 miles per hour when his vehicle slammed into the
   59  passenger side of Eric Brody’s car, and
   60         WHEREAS, Eric Brody was found unconscious 6 minutes later
   61  by paramedics, his head and upper torso leaning upright and
   62  toward the passenger-side door. Although he was out of his
   63  shoulder harness and seat belt by the time paramedics arrived,
   64  the Brody’s attorney proved that Eric was wearing his seat belt
   65  and that the 16-year-old seat belt buckle failed during the
   66  crash. Photographs taken at the scene by the sheriff’s office
   67  investigators showed the belt to be fully spooled out because
   68  the retractor was jammed, with the belt dangling outside the
   69  vehicle from the driver-side door, providing proof that Eric
   70  Brody was wearing his seat belt and shoulder harness during the
   71  crash, and
   72         WHEREAS, accident reconstruction and human factor experts
   73  called by both the plaintiff and the defendant agreed that if
   74  Deputy Thieman been driving at the speed limit, Eric Brody would
   75  have easily completed his turn, and
   76         WHEREAS, the experts also agreed that if Deputy Thieman
   77  simply remained within his lane of travel, regardless of his
   78  speed, there would not have been a collision, and
   79         WHEREAS, in order to investigate the seat-belt defense,
   80  experts for Eric Brody recreated the accident using an exact
   81  car-to-car crash test that was conducted by a nationally
   82  recognized crash test facility. The crash test involved vehicles
   83  identical to the Brody and Thieman vehicles, a fully
   84  instrumented hybrid III dummy, and high-speed action cameras,
   85  and
   86         WHEREAS, the crash test proved that Eric Brody was wearing
   87  his restraint system during the crash because the seat-belted
   88  test dummy struck its head on the passenger door within inches
   89  of where Eric Brody’s head actually struck the passenger door,
   90  and
   91         WHEREAS, when Eric Brody’s head struck the passenger door
   92  of his vehicle, the door crushed inward from the force of the
   93  impact with the police cruiser while at the same time his upper
   94  torso was moving toward the point of impact and the passenger
   95  door. The impact resulted in skull fractures and massive brain
   96  sheering, bleeding, bruising, and swelling, and
   97         WHEREAS, Eric Brody was airlifted by helicopter to Broward
   98  General Hospital where he was placed on a ventilator and
   99  underwent an emergency craniotomy and neurosurgery. He began to
  100  recover from a deep coma more than 7 months after his injury and
  101  underwent extensive rehabilitation, having to relearn how to
  102  walk, talk, feed himself, and perform other basic functions, and
  103         WHEREAS, Eric Brody, who is now 32 years old, has been left
  104  profoundly brain-injured, lives with his parents, and is mostly
  105  isolated from his former friends and other young people his age.
  106  His speech is barely intelligible and he has significant
  107  cognitive dysfunction, judgment impairment, memory loss, and
  108  neuro-visual disabilities. Eric Brody also has impaired fine and
  109  gross motor skills and very poor balance. Although Eric is able
  110  to use a walker for short distances, he mostly uses a wheelchair
  111  to get around. The entire left side of his body is partially
  112  paralyzed and spastic, and he needs help with many of his daily
  113  functions. Eric Brody is permanently and totally disabled;
  114  however, he has a normal life expectancy, and
  115         WHEREAS, the cost of Eric Brody’s life care plan is nearly
  116  $10 million, and he has been left totally dependent on public
  117  health programs and taxpayer assistance since 1998, and
  118         WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was insured
  119  for this claim through Ranger Insurance Company and paid more
  120  than $400,000 for liability coverage, and
  121         WHEREAS, on December 1, 2005, after a 2-month trial, a
  122  Broward County jury consisting of three men and three women
  123  found that that Deputy Thieman and the Broward County Sheriff’s
  124  Office were 100 percent negligent, and Eric Brody was not
  125  comparatively negligent, and
  126         WHEREAS, the jury found Eric Brody’s damages to be
  127  $30,609,298, including a determination that his past and future
  128  care and other economic damages were $11,326,216, and
  129         WHEREAS, final judgment was entered for $30,609,298, and
  130  the court entered a cost judgment for $270,372.30, for a total
  131  of $30,879,670.30, and
  132         WHEREAS, the court denied the Broward County Sheriff’s
  133  Office posttrial motions for judgment notwithstanding the
  134  verdict, new trial, or remittitur, and
  135         WHEREAS, the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office
  136  retained appellate counsel and elected to appeal the final
  137  judgment but not the cost judgment, and
  138         WHEREAS, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the
  139  verdict in the fall of 2007, and
  140         WHEREAS, the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office
  141  subsequently petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to seek
  142  another appeal, but the petition was denied in April of 2008,
  143  and
  144         WHEREAS, all legal remedies for all parties involved have
  145  been exhausted and this case is ripe for a claim bill, and
  146         WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office has paid
  147  $200,000 pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount
  148  of $15,575,021.30 is sought through the submission of a claim
  149  bill to the Legislature, NOW, THEREFORE,
  151  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  153         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  154  found and declared to be true.
  155         Section 2. The Sheriff of Broward County is authorized and
  156  directed to appropriate from funds of the Broward County
  157  Sheriff’s Office not otherwise appropriated and to draw a
  158  warrant payable to the Guardianship of Eric Brody for one-half
  159  of all amounts that remain unpaid in accordance with the final
  160  judgment, plus the cost judgment, in the sum of $15,575,021.30
  161  as compensation for injuries and damages sustained as a result
  162  of the negligence of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
  163         Section 3. The amount to be paid by the Broward County
  164  Sheriff’s Office pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and
  165  the amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the
  166  sole compensation for all claims arising out of the facts
  167  described in this act which resulted in the injuries to Eric
  168  Brody. The total amount of attorney fees, lobbying fees, costs,
  169  and other similar expenses may not exceed 25 percent of the
  170  total amount awarded under section 2 of this act.
  171         Section 4. It is the intent of the Legislature that one
  172  half of the lien interests held by the state resulting from the
  173  treatment and care of Eric Brody for the events described in the
  174  preamble of this act are not waived and extinguished, and the
  175  claimant’s guardianship shall reimburse the state for one-half
  176  of the expenses of Medicaid, Medicare, or the Agency for Health
  177  Care Administration pursuant to s. 409.910, Florida Statutes.
  178  The claimant’s guardianship shall pay the amount due pursuant to
  179  this act prior to distributing any funds to the claimant.
  180         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.